Eight months after a 21-hour trip to Vail with my daughter and niece, my husband and I reprised the getaway — this time with no short people in tow. Vail is the perfect, nearby destination for a weekend escape from our Colorado mountain home. That is, it’s a 90-minute drive away — close enough to be “out of town” but near enough for us to be able to decide on a whim to “get out of Dodge” and actually make it happen.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: to regroup, reconnect and recharge (whether it’s with your family, spouse, solo or with girlfriends), you don’t have to spend a week away or hop on a plane. I feel strongly that even a moderately priced hotel room one town over can feel like paradise when you just need a short escape from the daily grind (or avoid housework).
In this instance, our impetus for leaving the kids behind was longtime online travel-writer friend Kristin Luna. She and her husband were in town from their Nashville-area home; though we’d been online buddies for years, we’d never met in person!
Here’s how our weekend went down — it’s one I’d be happy to replicate again!
Stay: I’m a longtime fan of the Vail Cascade; I think I’ve now overnighted at the property beside Gore Creek at least three times. When we walked in around 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon the lobby bar was hopping with apres-ski festivity! We saw lots of families in the mix, as well as groups of friends and couples. Our room on the first floor was plenty big for the two of us — two double beds, with a desk and sitting area, plus a decent-sized bathroom. Our balcony opened up to the scenic creek with snow-covered pines beside it. (In the summer the recreation path along the creek is a favorite place for my family to bike.)
Our room was also a stone’s throw from one of the hot tubs on property. I liked our satellite soaking area — removed from the main infinity pool with additional hot tubs; we made a beeline for it as soon as we arrived.
Other highlights at the Vail Cascade include the totally yummy Atwater on Gore Creek restaurant, full-service Aria Spa, breakfast to go via the Market Cafe (we had $6 breakfast sandwiches from there that hit the spot), the relaxing Library, multi-bedroom condominiums if you’re traveling with extended family and a free resort shuttle that takes you from the lobby to the Lionshead Village or Vail Village within minutes (the free bus shows up every 15 minutes or so).
Eat: We met up with our visiting friends at Terra Bistro in the Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa in Vail Village. Known for his commitment to sustainability, Chef Kevin Nelson aims to use organic ingredients in his recipes at least 85 percent of the time. He works with a lot of Colorado ranchers to source free-range meat; fish and seafood are approved by Seafood Watch; and local orchards and farms provide organically grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.
When we ate at Terra Bistro on a busy Saturday night, the restaurant was indeed humming. Patrons packed the bar (where afternoon “appy hour” with drink deals is a popular place to be 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.) and all the restaurant tables were filled. Though it took a while for our friendly server to acknowledge us (and get yummy crispy bread and dahl dropped at the table), we appreciated his laid-back attitude and easygoing nature throughout the evening (plus, Kristin and I had so much to gab about — our poor husbands — we didn’t mind a leisurely paced dinner).
Favorite items we ordered for dinner included Albacore Tartare, House-made Chorizo Stuffed Dates, Jerk-spiced Cobia (a mild fish I hadn’t heard of), In-house Sprouted Quinoa Cups, Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Bittersweet Chocolate Molten. Yum!
Do: We didn’t bring our skis to Vail, so my husband and I spent a very leisurely Sunday morning waking up with coffee, breakfast sandwiches and The Denver Post in our room. Then spent the bulk of our day at Vail just walking from Lionshead to Vail Village, browsing shops, enjoying the crisp mountain air and checking out the Teva Mountain Games gear booths on a pedestrian mall.
I’d heard of some relatively new restaurants in Vail, so we checked out the new Elway’s in The Lodge at Vail (a much-needed improvement over the former frilly Wildflower restaurant), as well as hip Block 16 at the Sebastian (no, neither was open, that didn’t stop me from peeking the dining rooms and snapping some photos for future freelance-writing assignments).
We also spent a half hour in the really cool, highly recommended Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum. Admission is free (though donations always welcome) and displays include the history of skiing and snowboarding — including some great vintage boards (snurfers!). Olympic uniforms back to the 1940s show the evolution of ski fashion — and the one-piece suits from the 1980s are truly terrifying (who let our athletes wear sparkly spacesuits in public?). Another exhibit details the 10th Mountain Division, an army infantry active during World War II; some of these “soldiers on skis” went on to play key roles in founding the first U.S. ski resorts. The gift shop is a lovely place to pick up souvenirs from your Vail vacation.